9 year old with little league shoulder

Fractured growth plate of the upper arm. It is an overuse injury and a stress fracture. Basically, the softer bone of the growth plate that connects harder bone, splits. Yikes!

This is my son and pretty scary to me. He lost the entire season this spring and is very bummed out. The injury takes 12 weeks to heal and then the orthopedist suggested he lay off throwing even more time. My hope is to help educate folks from my experience and prevent it from happening to others. I have read up, and this is quite common in 11-12 year olds playing year round ball.

My dad never coached or worked with me much. I got my two innings in right field and was lucky if I got to bat more than once a game. I loved baseball but quit Little League after two seasons of that. I was determined it wouldn’t be the same for my kid.

We played fall ball this past fall because that is when our league first started pitching and he wanted to pitch this Spring. I thought I knew the dangers of pitching too young and went straight out, got him a pitching coach to teach him the right motion and had discussions with the coach about overuse. Lesson were every two weeks and we never practiced more than 3-4 times between lessons.

Where I think I failed is that I did not count pitches when we practiced. I let him throw sometimes until he was tired. Sometimes we threw two days in a row if he wanted to. I didn’t think it was that many pitches in 30-40 minutes, but it may have been more than I realized. I also finished up with a weighted ball. Before anyone rolls their eyes, it is the 7 oz one, just one ounce more than a regular ball, and I can see other people thinking this is safe. And there are much heavier ones. I did figure it would help his strength and it did. He was throwing regularly over 50 mph when the injury occurred.

Most of the artices are pretty heavy in the medical terminology with poor x-rays. This one has the best photos and helped me understand the issue better. There are other things you can find that explain it in simpler terms, but these pictures tell the story.

http://www.ejbjs.org/cgi/reprint/67/3/495

I hope I can help just one Dad from making the same mistakes I did.

My youngest son has pitched for 3 seasons (he is now 11) and until this year I didn’t concern myself much with pitch counts etc. knew enough not to let my son throw a curve ball and that he needed good mechanics. This year he will be held to strict pitch limits that were given to us by his professional pitching coach.

I think it is very admirable that you have posted this comment.

Thanks for your post, Gordon. The more we can get the word out to all of the young coaches and dads out there, the better these kinds of issues can be avoided. I hope things work out for your son.

By the way, a regulation baseball is 5oz so, if your son was throwing a 7oz ball, he was throwing a ball that was 2oz over regulation.

The problem is growing as more and more parents think it is “necessary” for kids to play year round in order to be competitive. In addition to the obvious stresses you get with playing baseball, you also have to deal with growing muscle imbalances that are created by any activity. When kids play multiple sports this never becomes a major problem because each sport requires different muscle groups and different movements. Over the course of the year you are constantly shifting, so the imbalances generally do not lead to bad injuries.

I actually find it funny that so many “experts” keep telling parents that kids need to play year round ball. If you look at the notes of strength and conditioning specialists from the Soviet Union, it basically says this:

Let your kids play multiple sports and enjoy themselves. Specialization before 13-14 years old is not going to make them any better, it will only open them up to injuries.